With an undefeated record, the district's player of the year and defensive player of the year, and 14 of the last 18 Concorde District titles, Oakton High's girls basketball team entered the title game as heavy favorites.
In the end, the Cougars did not disappoint expectations, taking the title with a 43-22 victory over the Chantilly Chargers at Centreville High School on Friday night. Fred Priester, the Cougars' head coach, notched his 550th career win in Oakton's eighth consecutive Concorde District title.
"It's always good [to win the Concorde District title], but of course we're not satisfied yet. It's something nobody can ever take away from us and I'm really glad we did it together," said senior Katherine Coyer, who was named the Concorde District Tournament's Most Valuable Player on Friday in addition to her title as the district's Defensive Player of the Year.
But the Cougars did not cruise to the easy victory they had become accustomed to in their 22-0 regular season. Through those 22 games, the Cougars averaged 64.1 points per game. On Wednesday, the Cougars hit a season-low with 48 total points in the district semifinal game and tallied even less in Friday's title match with 43.
"We're in a little bit of a slump right now but we'll get it back. We just gotta stay disciplined," Coyer said.
Making up for their offensive woes, the Cougars maintained their overpowering defense to squelch any scoring runs from the Chargers. Despite an atypical nine-point first period for the Cougars, they held the Chargers to just two points. And when the Cougars only mustered up five more points before the end of the first half, they held the Chargers to a single-digit total of eight points to hold a six-point lead.
"I thought we did a great job on defense ... and for the most part rebounding," Priester said. "[The Chargers] didn't get many second shots and we stayed after the ball and things like that. There was much to be happy about in that first half, but when you look at the score and it's 14-8, it's hard to feel particularly happy or satisfied."
The second half saw a stronger Cougar offense as they went on an 11-0 scoring run over the first five minutes, during which Caroline Coyer scored five of her game-high 12 points. In the third period, the Chargers scored five points — the only points for either team in the last three minutes of the period — which widened the point gap to 12 with a score of 25-13.
The Cougars's offense continued to strengthen throughout the fourth period, taking enough of a lead to allow Priester to sit all his starters for the last minute of the game. Elizabeth Manner and Katherine Coyer combined for 11 of the Cougars' 18 points in the period.
"That first half was the third half in a row that [Priester] was not happy with us. So it was just like 'All right, is this going to become a real trend for us?'" said Caroline Coyer, who was named Player of the Year for the Concorde District. "I think that a lot of us seniors and more experienced kids got together and we were like 'We have to fix this now [in the second half] ...'"
Priester said the team will be working to put their offense back on track before Monday's game in the first round of the Northern Region Tournament. He is hoping hard work combined with the familiarity of their home court will help the girls return to normal.
The Cougars will face Washington-Lee High School at home 7:30 p.m. Monday.
Priester Notches 550th Career Win
Unbeknownst to his players, Coach Fred Priester earned his 550th career win as the Oakton Cougars took the Concorde District title for the 14th time under his charge.
Priester tallied 420 of those wins over the last 18 years at Oakton High School, while 130 of them were earned while he reigned over the McLean High squad for 10 years.
"Good kids, good assistant coaches," Priester said, shrugging off the accomplishment. "You have to have those to be successful."
While Priester refrained from singing his own praises, his players gushed as they heard the news of his latest achievement.
"So much thanks has to go out to him. I can't emphasize enough how important he is to the success of our team and how much he does for us both as players and people," senior Katherine Coyer said. "To be able to experience this with him is amazing. There's no words to explain it."
Her twin sister, Caroline, also expressed gratitude for Priester's hard work.
"He's one of the best coaches I've ever played for. I'll remember him forever, everything he says. ... He deserves every win he gets," she said.